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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your better half or friends who warm your heart

The holiday of paper hearts and red roses is upon us once again. While you can’t go wrong with a romantic dinner date for two (particularly at one of Portland’s esteemed restaurants) or a feel-good movie night with friends, there are plenty of other festive Valentine’s Day activities, if you only think outside the heart-shaped chocolate box. Whether you’re one-half of a couple or surrounded by your closest friends, here are a few ways to spread some love while having a blast.

Get off the grid this February with a trip to one of Maine Huts & Trails huts, where you can spend the day snowshoeing or reading by the fire. Photo courtesy of Maine Huts & Trails

Go off the grid for the weekend

Sure, the temperature mid-February in Maine may be sub-freezing, but that’s no reason to stay inside. If you and your partner are the outdoorsy types, pack a hiking backpack, strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and set off for a Valentine’s Day weekend among the trees at Maine Huts and Trails (mainehuts.org). Located north of Carrabassett Valley near Bigelow Preserve, this extensive trail network leads you through the rivers, lakes and woods nestled in the mountains of Western Maine. The four huts, each powered by sustainable energy, are huts in name only. They each boast grand wooden facades, heated bunkhouses and crackling wood stoves perfect for defrosting your toes after a day of exploring. Best of all, the food—included in your overnight stay—is notoriously awesome. After dinner, order a glass (or two) of wine or beer, and lounge in front of the fire with the person (or people) you love. A weekend stay costs $138 per person per night, but if you can swing a midweek getaway, the rate drops to $96.

Escape on an after-work adventure

If weekend excursions don’t jive with your schedule (or your budget), plan an evening trip after work to a nearby mountain and enjoy some night skiing under the stars. Tucked away in Bridgton, just over an hour’s drive from Portland, Shawnee Peak (shawneepeak.com) is a small but popular mountain well-known for its night skiing scene. Get in as many runs as you can on their 19 night trails and then head back to the mountain pub, Blizzards, for some après-ski grub and libations. Midweek lift tickets are just $27 per person from 3:30 to 8 p.m.

Do you prefer skates to skis? Dress warmly and make your way to a nearby ice rink for a night rife with excuses to hold hands with your date. The Rink at Thompson’s Point (therinkatthompsonspoint.com) in Portland has all the romantic ambiance you may be after—twinkling lights, a fire pit and a view of the water—but it’s also an ideal destination for you and some friends. Either way, you can enjoy a glass of beer while warming up in the on-site yurt. Admission is $8 per person and $3 per skate rental, but on Valentine’s Day, your date will get in for free. The rink is open from 3 to 9 p.m.

No partner need for an intro to swing class with Portland Swing Project. These classes are great date night, but they’re also a chance to learn some neat new moves, whether you’re on a date or not. Photo courtesy of Portland Swing Project

Drop into a dance class

Perhaps you and your friends want to avoid exposure to Maine’s wintry elements. Why not warm up with an introduction to swing dance? Portland Swing Project (portlandswingproject.com) offers drop-in dance classes for newcomers every week. This Valentine’s Day Wednesday-night class will focus on Lindy Hop, one of the main ingredients of swing dance. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to meet new people; the instructors will have you switch partners as the class goes on. If this reveals swing to be your thing, enroll in one of Portland Swing Project’s eight-week courses and master the art of this 1920s dance—or at least have a lot of fun trying. Wednesday classes are held at The Living Room in South Portland from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. Drop-in rates are $14 per person.

Beer and chocolate are perfectly paired during the “Beer Loves Chocolate” event at Allagash on Valentine’s Day. Photo by Cait Bourgault

Indulge in a chocolate-y affair

If your sweet tooth will not be denied on this chocolate-centric holiday, celebrate with Maine’s finest chocolates and brews. At Allagash Brewing Company’s (allagash.com) annual Valentine’s Day event, Beer Hearts Chocolate, you can treat yourself to artisan chocolates crafted by local chocolatiers to pair perfectly with four of Allagash’s famously delicious brews. Indulge your palate and toast to your loved ones while swaying to live music in the tasting room. Purchase your tickets, $15 per person, in advance to reserve some chocolate for you and your date. This event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 14 at Allagash in Portland.

Bailey O’Brien is a Portland-based freelance writer and editor. In her spare time, she can be found in tiny bookstores, on top of mountains or beside the ocean.

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